DeMarcus Shelborne

by Dana Kester-McCabe

DeMarcus Shelborne, known to his friends as Danny, is a tattoo artist, painter, and muralist who is very busy bringing art to Milford, Delaware.

DeMarcus Shelborne:
"I've always had a passion for art. You know? Since I was a kid once I go the pencil in my hand, you know it was hard to get me to concentrate on anything else. I got into comic books at a young age. So, that really fueled it a lot more. So you will see it in my style even today. A lot of the things I do you can still see reminiscent of the comic book styles and the type of line work and details."

After high school Danny received a scholarship to the Art Institute of Philadelphia where he studied comic book illustration. The program emphasized animation which Danny decided was not the direction he wanted to go in. So he brought his talents back to Milford.

DeMarcus Shelborne:
"As an adult I started thinking more about: "Alright how am I not going to be the struggling artist story?" You know what I mean? I continue to do all sorts of art when I have the time to; but tattooing is what became profitable for me. And since, it has taken over my life. The demand for it keeps me working all day every day. So, I have to put time aside so I can still do some painting or charcoal work, drawings and what not."

Tattooing as a form of art has come into its own in our country with wide acceptance and the advancement in the tools available. It is an intimate collaboration between the artist and their human canvas.

DeMarcus Shelborne:
"Artists have pushed the limits and showed what is possible. There are so many different art styles and names to styles in tattooing now. It's a huge culture; still growin'."

"And what draws me it and of all the different art avenues I could go, what made me fall in love with tattooing is: your canvas is alive. It's moving all over the place."

"You'll have some people who just come in off the spur of the moment, pick something out. They just want to get tattooed. But someone comes in, something important needs to be expressed, possibly they have lost someone they want to do a memorial, a tribute that is respectful and artistic. I feel honored that they come to me and let me craft it for them and put it on their body. It's awesome."

Danny also paints murals on commission. He, along with two other artists (Lori Connor and Gil Rodriquez Guitierrez) are collaborating on a mural on the side of Arenas bar and Deli on Front Street on the River Plaza in Milford. There will be a Latin dancer and a pair of ballet dancers. Danny's section will have a dancer of African descent. This multicultural project will help reflect the reality of Milford's richly diverse cultural heritage and the new younger leadership in town.

DeMarcus Shelborne:
"Obviously times are changing and Milford is trying to catch up a little bit. And, I think they are wanting to put that message out there, that they are accepting of everybody. And we want everybody to intertwine and mingle and feel like this is home. You know: This is music. This is art. This is life. Milford is that type of town. It is a beautiful town as well."

"Me, I am a slow worker. I put a lot of detail into things. But this time around we will have help. Each artist will have a group of students from local high schools appointed underneath of us. We will delegate certain portions for them to do. So I imagine we will get done a lot faster. With us dedicating only a few hours a week. But, I am sure it will take a while. We're talking about a huge piece."

March 2016 is the target date for completion of the mural.

Danny has great drawing skills. Often his subject matter is portraits of friends, family, or those of his commissions. He also does dramatic compositions about violence, loss, and faith. They are sometimes used in his tattoos but they definitely stand on their own as beautifully rendered fine art that comes from a very deep place. One work in progress was inspired by a vision that appeared to Danny while he was talking to his mother about his plans and ambitions.

DeMarcus Shelborne:
"When I do my own art, yeah, the pieces that mean the most to me are the ones that were inspired by something I went through, how I grew, or something I seen. I got a piece right now that I'm working on. I don't want the whole world to think I am crazy, but I seen something one night in the sky. It was like a confirmation. It was either an alien or an angel. You know? Whatever it was, I am going to paint it so the whole world can see what I saw that night.

"A lot of my art, at times, even now, currently, I do things, thinking business wise: "What are people going to want?" You know I mean? And you have to do that to an extent but, life is all about balance. So you definitely have to find time for yourself and doing the type of art that not everybody will even understand, or appreciate. Or, maybe they will later. You know? But you gotta stay true to yourself. For sure."

Danny is also a visionary when it comes to growing the arts scene here. He is in the midst of creating a gallery space at his tattoo parlor where regular shows will take place.

DeMarcus Shelborne:
"I know a good amount of amazing artists here in the tri-state area. And I want to reach out and become acquainted with some more of them, guys whose work that I have seen, and like that. But, what I plan on doing is some art shows either bimonthly or every three months. I want to aim for bimonthly."

"Basically what I will do is create a platform for the urban artist. You know, around the corner there is a lot of art galleries. They're mostly old school. You know: the lighthouses, the traditional scenic paintings, and things like that. But there are artists that don't really have a platform or a place for their art. They're doing the more modern, the more contemporary types of art."

"Basically I want to create that culture so more people will recognize art and look for art, and want art in their own lives. You know? And seeing tattooing even, as not just: "I'm goin' to go get a tat." But you're trying to get art. You're following the artist."

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